One would think from the recent media outburst regarding Canadian defence spending that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had endorsed the Iceland paradigm (no standing army) as Ottawa’s new security model.
The garment rending view with alarm was prompted by the recent NATO summit desire that NATO members spend at least 2% of their Gross Domestic Product on the military.
Ho-hum. One recalls the cynical NATO definition, “No Action: Talk Only.”
There has never been a NATO defence review that didn’t call for greater spending by alliance members.
It has been NATO’s constant drumbeat for well over a generation.
NATO defence spending has never reached the objectives sought in its annual defence planning questionnaires, a review of every member’s military spending.
Then, as now, Canada spends significantly less on defence and security than objective reviews of its economy suggest is possible.
Hectoring simply doesn’t work.
Canada has not spent affordable amounts on defence since the Korean War (1950-53).
Essentially, Canada came to an implicit conclusion about defence spending.
That is, that it could never defend itself against a hostile USA, regardless of defence expenditures.
But that any other threat powerful enough to concern Canada would also threaten the United States — and it would have to address it and thus defend Canada.
Hence, Canada could be poorly defended at great cost or poorly defended at relatively little cost.
Actuarial assessment drove the conclusion money not spent on defence in Canada could be spent on social and health benefits.
Nevertheless, even minimal defence expenditures can be costly. And easily politicized.
It is useful to recall the disconnects between the three major Canadian political parties on this issue.
In contrast to the U.S., where Democrats and Republicans agree it should have the best defence/security forces and bicker only over how excessive expenditures should be, Canadian political parties are defined by their differences.